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SHUT UP! Ohakim dismisses Ararume’s antics

Posted by ANDY ASEMOTA, Katsina on 2007/12/16 | Views: 853 |

SHUT UP! Ohakim dismisses Ararume’s antics

Imo State governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, has dismissed the threat posed by the forays of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume at the election petition tribunal as existing only on the pages of the newspapers. This is even as the governor expressed sympathy at the plight of the embattled PDP candidate to last April’s governorship election.

Imo State governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, has dismissed the threat posed by the forays of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume at the election petition tribunal as existing only on the pages of the newspapers. This is even as the governor expressed sympathy at the plight of the embattled PDP candidate to last April’s governorship election.

Ohakim who spoke to select journalists on the Clean & Green cardinal project of his administration, as well as the empowerment programme that would see commercial motorcycle operators dropping their Okada to own taxis said The two-term senator was like a gambler who has played his last card and is desperate to win something… “I sympathise with him. I think Araraume is suffering from the gambler’s last-card syndrome. He has played it and is both jittery and desperate”, the governor said.

According to him, the senator whose petition is still before the tribunal is probably convinced that he may not have put up a good showing at the tribunal and is, therefore, desperate to rescue whatever he can of his battered image.
According to the governor, it is as a result of this desperation that rather than keep quiet and allow the tribunal do its work, the senator and his spin-doctors have resorted to playing mind games with the public, through the media.
The governor, however, refused to expatiate on the issue, saying that as long as the matter remains in court, he would only talk on other issues. Excerpts:

With the rather elaborate launching of Clean and Green Initiative in Imo State, cynics insist that waste disposal and management should be an ancillary programme that ought not to be at the centre stage. What is your take on that?
The Clean and Green Initiative we launched in Imo state may not make much meaning to anyone who has a narrow understanding of the objectives of the project.
It is not just about waste disposal and management but a conscious and deliberate programme that has a huge potential of providing a basket of opportunities that would open the economic space of Imo State. Long before I ventured into politics, it has always been my passion to seek out alternative sources to increase the revenue base of the state as a prelude to addressing some of the social and economic problems that have remained irresoluble.

Tourism presents a goldmine, given the unique endowments of the state. And this industry thrives under certain basic environmental conditions. Unlike in some touristic centres in Nigeria and abroad were the tourism industry is driven by a one spot location centre, Imo State boasts of more than eight tourism attraction centres. Such huge potentials must be tapped and wisdom demands that the infrastructures needed to support the development of the industry must be put in place.
Besides that, investors demand certain minimum environmental and physical conditions to create a home for themselves and their investments. These must be guaranteed in order to prove our readiness to host investments.

All these are objectives that the Clean and Green Initiative of the Imo State Government is programmed to achieve. We need not restate the fact that cleanliness and an alluring environment have an inbuilt capacity of positively influencing the psyche of the people thereby engendering a spiritual impact that is godly and transformational.
The Clean and Green initiative in effect, presents a basket of opportunities that would enable the state address the problems of unemployment, poor economic activities, a shift from a civil service-driven economy, health problems and above all, the attainment of the lofty ideal of realizing the New Face of Imo paradigm.

Can a mere clean environment achieve all these?
We have identified and carefully programmed to drive other programmes that are integrated to this.
In the area of infrastructural development, we are opening up the rural roads, rehabilitating some and constructing new ones in the urban areas with emphasis on those that have high vehicular usage and economic value.
Added to the above, the state would be launching its security programme code named “operation festival” within this month. It would turn out the most effective security initiative with high integrative operational machinery powered by an interface of well structured vigilante, police, army, SSS and NDSC arrangement.

We do not want to concentrate security and crime fighting efforts in the urban areas alone. Operational festival would promote efficient and result-driven community policing with emphasis on intelligence and information gathering backed by state security machinery that is not only mobile and properly equipped with modern communication gadgets, but psychologically prepared to fight crime with zeal and greater commitment.

The vigilante groups, carefully chosen by the traditional rulers and town union leadership were subjected to rigorous training after the necessary security checks to ensure effectiveness and efficiency. All the divisional police stations have been linked up to a central communication base station to bridge communication problems that often create operational loopholes for the security agencies. We would step up anti-crime campaigns aimed at raising security consciousness and mass support in crime prevention.

Imo State government is comprehensively addressing the issue of unemployment to ensure that the youths are engaged to discourage them from taking to crime.
Already, some of the programmes we have launched so far have opened job opportunities for thousands of the citizens of the state.

The level of branding your government has adopted for its programmes looks impressionistic. Is it deliberate or what point are you trying to make?
The level of buy-in the programmes of the Imo State Government have received so far is as a result of branding. Often times, otherwise good programmes of governments suffer setbacks because of rejection of arising from misconceptions. These misconceptions can be corrected when the people understand the intentions of government and the objectives of the programmes.

Government programmes must be handled like products and one cannot effectively market a product without branding. What branding even does is that it forces you to plan properly. You must dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s to ensure that what you are presenting passes the acid tests of quality control.
If you have read some of my books, conference papers and articles in the papers in the last few years, I have been consistent in recommending that leaders should not take the masses for granted. It is important that you take into consideration, the sensitivities of the people – by ensuring that the objectives of any programme are properly and adequately, articulated, communicated and the people are on the same page with government. When that is done, driving the programme and policies to achieve the intended and desired results becomes less cumbersome.

We brand in Imo because of the acknowledgement of the masses as critical stakeholders that must be carried along at all times.
As a management scientist and marketer, if I do not adopt these measures, my learning, exposure and experience becomes doubtful.
What we are doing in Imo is to showcase how government business should be handled for better results.
Modern thinking in governance demands that we must be compliant to these modern techniques and trends in order to make a difference.

Recently, it was reported that your government had a running battle with Okada operators in the state and that some teachers were laid off. How consistent are these measures with your job creation and empowerment programme.
The issue of commercial motorcycle (okada) operators was blown out of proportion by some politicians that wanted to take advantage of a situation to score cheap political points.
Immediately it filtered from the grapevine that government intended to have a phased programme of putting okada out of the major township roads, the rumour mill fuelled by some rejected politicians flew a dangerous kite to create bad blood in the state.

We realized this and managed the situation properly. The fact is that the government introduced a programme to address transportation problem in the state and, remember, a properly planned transportation station would provide yet another leg or support base for the tourism industry.
Part of the arrangement was to take our youths off the tops of okada and give them opportunity to be taxi and bus owners through a properly structured repayment arrangement.

While we were still working out the modalities of managing this programme which will be launched before the end of this year, the politicians cornered okada operators and told them that the government of Ohakim intends to deny them their means of livelihood, you can see how low some politicians can descend to score cheap political points through information manipulation and deceit.
A particular politician who is a petitioner in the election tribunal in Owerri, hurriedly rushed down to Owerri and was throwing wads of naira notes to okada operators saying that if he were the governor, he would not have banned them from operating. In playing on the sentiments of these youths, he forgot that some of them are graduates who ordinarily should be assisted to have a secured future instead of operating okada business.

I am sure that this same politician would not allow his children to operate Okada but sees nothing wrong sentencing the future of our vibrant youths to the top of Okada.
As the Governor of Imo State, I see these young men operate Okada and my heart bleeds. I know they have potentials to do other noble things to earn a living other than subjecting themselves to the high risk of operating Okada.
I called the Okada operators and told them that as a caring father, I have better alternative for them and that the government intentions are genuine and that the programme would be executed gradually to ensure that they are not exposed to hardships.

They listened to me and were jubilant that at least somebody cares about their plight. Since then, check out the television footages of the election Petition Tribunal sittings in Owerri whether you would see a single Okada operator ridding in front or behind the said politician who was bent on misdirecting them.
These politicians are naturally worried that when we successfully empower the youths and indeed Imo people, their reign of thuggery and money politics would be over. That accounts for the desperation.
On the issue of the teachers that were laid off, the government was only implementing a white paper from the previous administration, but that is not to suggest that we are not convinced of the merit of the case. Some of the people laid off were teachers with forged certificate, absentees, those due for retirement and others with other sundry problems.

In order to show good faith, I quickly gave approval for the employment of 400 teachers which was promptly done.
Same politicians tried to make an issue out of this but suddenly hit the brick wall when it became obvious that they could not fly with such bad cases.
That was simply the situation. We are on course in building data base on the unemployment situation and gradually creating avenues to engage the unemployed.

No responsible government would fold its arms and watch a good number of employable hands lying idle and that is why I made job creation and the enhancement of enabling environment to gainfully employ the idle hands a priority. Part of the projection of my government is to create better and more rewarding alternative that would make civil service job unattractive.

Critics are of the opinion that your development dreams are too big to be accommodated within the resource envelope of Imo State which is saddled with heavy wage bills. How do you intend to fund some of these projects, or could it be a case of unrealizable dreams?
The greatest asset I have is the capacity to dream big, set a work plan towards that and ensure that the dreams are actualized. These assets I have made available to the good people of Imo State.
When I came on board, I made it clear to the people that we must work collectively to create wealth and think less about how to share allocations. Such issues as sharing allocation to me amount to a distraction.

The reforms we are driving in the local government administration which emphasizes financial discipline, accountability and responsibility are structured to ensure that the New Face of Imo paradigm is embraced at the third tier that has remained regrettably contentious across the country. We are leading by example.
Detractors are surprised that Ikedi Ohakim has no interest in the allocations to the local governments even though they had tried to speculate to the contrary – and that again could not fly because truth is constant.

My government has taken to a journey of transformation and the 2008 budget I presented to the state Assembly clearly defined the direction of the government. My interest is to widen the scope of opportunities so that we can recreate the middle class that has been extinct
We are networking to attract investments in order to build a manufacturing based economy. This government has decided not to encourage a consumption-based economy. Our huge suppliers across the country have been put on notice to start thinking of setting up plants in Imo State as a condition for enjoying further patronage. These are innovative ideals aimed at growing the economy of the state.

The state government has gradually re-orientated the work force to accept that the civil service mentality syndrome in the way government business is run is inconsistent with the New Face of Imo philosophy. When some of them see the political appointees arrive early to office and work till late, they would have no choice than to reconcile themselves with the fact that in Imo, it is business unusual.
Before I was sworn in as Governor of Imo State, I set up a committee to look at my campaign manifesto and reduce it to a work plan with time frames for execution.

Those who dream big think big and act big. Some people have a gift of remembering their dreams, some others forget soon after they wake up. I belong to the first group and when you closely watch how we are going, you would realize that the Chief Servant (Ikedi Ohakim) prepared for government when others were busy amassing financial war chest to buy the peoples mandate.

Most leaders that fail in service delivery are those that are ill equipped and easily get overwhelmed by the problems they meet on the ground. Because they have no answer to the problems, the next option is to start playing to the gallery by creating distractions and setting people against themselves as a subterfuge to hide their inadequacies.

I would rather that I am accused of dreaming big instead of being dry on the dream line. It’s my nature and it allows me run ahead of any competition because I would have braced the tape before others start identifying the track.
Before we develop any programme idea, the issue of how to fund it would have been properly addressed. Even though the resources of the state are depleted by high wage bills, part of strategic thinking and management efficiency is to create escape route in situation that present itself as a blind alley. I have never allowed myself to be held hostage by problems, no matter how intractable. That is why I assembled a strong team in my cabinet to provide complementary ideas on how to come around our problems.

These are great Imo sons and daughters that are eager to confront the problems of the state with all they have to ensure that the future of the state is assured.
Critics have been playing invaluable role in getting us to step up the tempo by ensuring that we are not found napping.

When you operate with some reasonable level of conviction and commitment, nothing would negatively affect your confidence. When I decided to embark on a journey of transformation, it was obvious to me that the path would be strewn with vampires and thorns. We are gradually dismantling all these to bequeath a modern model state to our people.
The government is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the people who have willingly joined the train of transformation that took off on the 29th day of May. The expectations are high and they cannot wait to usher in the resurgence of a climate that would restore hope and create opportunities for self-actualization.

State of Ndigbo
The speech I delivered at the last world Igbo congress was a wake up call. For those of us that understand the capacity and latent potentials of the Igbo nation, what has become of the people is highly troubling.

For the first time, I spoke to the audience the way no one has ever done before. The objective was not to grandstand or take advantage of the platform to engage in political self-marketing or adulation.
Rather, the interest was to warn about the doom that will befall us as a people should we not embark on soul-searching, self-rediscovery and group re-identification.

Is it not ironical that an ethnic nationality that enjoyed the rare position of the strongest leg of the tripod, upon which the Nigerian nation was founded at Independence, would now be a marginal player in the scheme of things?
Whereas many have tried to locate our problems from outside, I reminded my brothers and sisters that ours was a case of self-inflicted injury. The Latin maxim, volenti non fit injuria vividly capture the fate of the Igbo nation.
Igbos have suffered the unfortunate faith of having the most distasteful characters parading as their spokespersons and leaders. These people, conscious of the poor economic empowernment of the masses, have successfully and shamelessly sustained the politics of the stomach by disingenuously manipulating the system for cheap political gains.

These individuals, conscious of their inadequacies, serve outside interests in order to maintain relevance and equally enjoy protection.
The ease with which they negotiate away the collective interest of the Igbo nation emboldens the competitors in a heterogeneous society like ours to selectively deal with the people on the basis of who can easily serve their immediate interests. My message was clear, let us empower the people in order to reduce their level of vulnerability in the hands of political merchants masquerading as Igbo leaders.

Although most of the blacklegs are here in Nigeria, a position of indifference by those outside the shores of the country would amount to a costly capitulation. That was why I took my message to an audience I believe would appreciate the import, having been beneficiaries of a system that works…
If you say I caused a stir, yes in a positive sense because the hint of a turning point has presented itself and we must take it and re-adjust to brace up for the challenges ahead.
The harm some of our sons and daughters have done to the collective will of the people since the end of the civil war is unimaginable.

When you hear and know how they have been conniving to subsume group interests into their personal interest, then, you need not search far to identify where rain started beating the Igbo nation. It’s simply benumbing and condemnable.
One only hopes that God would continue to intervene on behalf of the people that have suffered untold hardship from the manipulations of the so called leaders.

Posterity would definitely expose all of them because you can deceive some people some times but not all the people all the time. There is a wind of change blowing across the Igbo nation, many who were apathetic and indifferent in the past, have started asking questions and that portends ominous danger for the black legs. Following these, I made a call on the people of the South East to contribute towards completing the abandoned Onitsha-Owerri road when it became obvious that Julius Berger, the firm handling the contract had abdicated due to debts owed it by the Federal Government. I have equally made a representation to the president for early intervention and I believe he would do something about it.

What do you consider the likely problems in realizing the pan Igbo cooperative development agenda?
The snake called amber has very dangerous venoms, the strength of a hydra lies in its multiple heads and the vampires that have held the Igbo nation prostrate are not only venomous but hydra-headed. If you think they would give up easily, then you must be underestimating their capacity to put up a fight.
Some of them are becoming uncomfortable about the growing resentment from the people and have resorted to mounting campaign of calumny and blackmail against some of us at Abuja.

What they forget is that some of the audience and individuals they approach to throw tar on some people in the Igbo nation know them better as the scourge of the Igbo people.
We cannot be dissuaded from ensuring that our people take their rightful situation in the scheme of things in this country. I guess that it would even be in their interest to be remorseful and join in the drive to reposition the Igbo nation.

One would not be surprised if they begin to create crisis among the governors from the South East so that we cannot collectively agree on anything but my assessment of the mood within the Igbo nation confirm that the elusive light is beaming back on the people.
That I delivered a speech on the issues concerning the Igbo nation does not mean that the majority are not thinking in the same direction.
Any Igbo man or woman who pretends not to know that all is not well does not worth the surname he or she bears. The feeling is collective and feverish.

How are you managing the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of the government in Imo State, especially against the backdrop of a PPA governor and a PDP House?
So many things are unusual in the nascent Imo of today and that shows that the state is really in the hands of God. In Imo State, we are all working and synergizing the way architects, civil engineers, surveyors etc do at a work site. We have collectively accepted that the future holds hope and opportunities for the state and everyone is willing to be counted in the project execution.
Except when these questions are asked, I don’t even remember that the situation of PPA Governor and PDP House exists. The relationship is not only cordial, the fact that we share the same vision cements it the more.

Don’t forget that the Honourable members are sons and daughters of Imo State who like myself, are elected to provide quality services to the people.
We are simply on the same page to transform Imo State and that make the cells of understanding stronger.
The two arms of government are not managing relationship, rather we are working together for the benefit of the people of the state.

You are a respondent in an election petition filed by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume of the Peoples Democratic Party. Recently, the petitioner claimed in widely publicized newspaper interviews that you and your party are unpopular in the state and as such, you couldn’t naturally have emerged the winner in the governorship election of April 28, 2007 in Imo. What is your reaction?
Honestly, I do not want to join issues with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, especially when the petition is still before the tribunal. He should simply shut up and allow the tribunal to do its job. If he believes strongly in the veracity of his claim, why has he resorted to mind game and playing the media that suggests that he is jittery.

If you watch, I have refused to be drawn into a media war with him because I know that he is just exhibiting his usual desperation.
Having said that, it would be apposite to analyse the kind of mindset that drives desperation, especially by some petitioners. It is what social psychologists refer to as the “gambler’s last card syndrome” which is unfortunately symptomatic of people who care less about the integrity of the case or a process. Be that as it may, I have refused, based on personal discipline and wise counsel not to be drawn into “a rofo-rofo” fight with Senator Ararume who is my younger brother. The only worry is that the millions he wastes in image laundering in the media could be put in more productive and better use to the benefit of the suffering youths of Imo state who are in dare need of support.

I have no doubt in my mind that before long, he would have no choice than reconcile himself with the reality presented by the New Face of Imo project. Honestly, I have been holding back but at the appropriate time, I would speak out and the revelations would be startling. My interest at the moment is to pilot this train of transformation that took off on May 29, 2007 without submitting to booby traps laid out to distract the government. If I allow that, God and the people of Imo State that gave me the mandate would not forgive me.

What precisely is this New Face of Imo Initiative all about?
The greatest passion for me is to deliver on my election promises to the people of Imo State who are enthusiastic to be soaked into the New Face of Imo Initiative. Visit Imo and gauge the mood of the people. Senator Ararume is only being sustained by a section of the media who he deliberately cornered to serve a predetermined purpose, in the same gambler’s survivalist fashion.
The New face of Imo represents a philosophical and ideological slant that encapsulates the mindset, disposition and orientation that drives my government. We identified that Imo needed to have a new face in the light of the developments in our political history.

For a people that have witnessed God’s intervention in their political development history, it would be a surprise if we do not embrace a new culture in our leadership and the relationship management style between the people and the government.
Government business is now driven by best practices whether you are elected or appointed. We now owe it to God to ensure that the people get the best from the government they put in place.
Building the model modern state of our dream cannot be achieved if people’s attitude do not change. Because confidence building is important in addressing perception problems that burden governments. Its under a new face of Imo paradigm that we can achieve all these.

What should the people of Imo State expect from your government?
A government that is sensitive to their feelings and responsible enough to understand that accountability has no alternative as a leadership virtue. A government that is determined to empower the people socially, politically and economically, a government that understands that it is primarily in place to raise the standard of living of the people, a government that has definite and properly articulated programme with the work plans to achieve results. The transformational vision of my government is founded on acceptable principles of best practices that grow the system by developing the people, the structures of government and the state.
The people should be rest assured that they have a government that cares in place and we will stop at nothing in meeting their expectations which are not only genuine but the material basis for having governments in place in the first instance.

The transformation budget of N87.3 billion you presented to the House of Assembly recently for the 2008 fiscal year looks ambitious. How do you justify the almost 100% increase from the current year’s figure?
The 2008 budget I presented to the House is not only realistic but implementable. If you say ambitious in a positive sense, I agree with you because we are aware that the opportunities which the budget objective intends to achieve can only be realized if it is uniquely fashioned.
For the first time in the history of Imo state, the capital outlay is higher than the recurrent heading. When an allocation of 61% of the budget is set for capital expenditure, it underscores our sincerity to put up an infrastructural base that can sustain a vibrant economy that we intend to bequeath to Imo people.

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